Unholy sea of locusts plagues 'Passion' town

The ancient town of Matera, in Italy's deep south, famous for its cliffs pocked with hundreds of cave dwellings, has done very nicely out of the fact that it looks as if it jumped fully formed from the Bible.

The ancient town of Matera, in Italy's deep south, famous for its cliffs pocked with hundreds of cave dwellings, has done very nicely out of the fact that it looks as if it jumped fully formed from the Bible.

Pasolini, who shot The Gospel According to St Matthew here, was the first director to be struck by the town's resemblance to everyone's idea of what the Holy Land ought to look like. Mel Gibson agreed. When he filmed The Passion of The Christ here, the streets ran red with fake blood.

But now the town's biblical credentials have got out of hand. This summer, Matera has been struck by a plague of locusts.

The fiery summer of 2003, which helped the locusts reproduce, is blamed for the arrival of millions of the huge insects, sending tourists diving for their buses and obliging residents to lock themselves indoors.

The plague is a little local difficulty, with no connection to the real plague under way in Africa. But this is faint consolation for Matura's shopkeepers and restaurateurs, wondering what the Lord has in store for them next.

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